Ghanaian Education System
One of the most intriguing aspects of Ghanian history that I learned is their intense grading system. I was incredibly surprised by how rigorously grades were incorporated into the Ghanaian education system starting from a young age. For example, Ghanian children would probably have pictures graded in kindergarten, and this continues into university where an entire class is based on the final exam. Then, when talking to the Liberian therapist, he mentioned how even the education system is much more rigorous that that of an American education. He described the American education as a “spoon feeding” system and while I was slightly taken aback by this statement, I started to realize what he meant when as I reflected on my own education.
Throughout my education in the US I have gotten much guidance from my teachers. I went to private school from 7th to 12th grade because my parents wanted me to be in a smaller setting where teachers were more available. However, even when I went to a middle sized public elementary school from kindergarten to grade 6 I was receiving a lot of attention from teachers, the only difference being that things were taught much more slowly in elementary school in order to give this individual attention to large groups of students. I am not saying that “guidance” is bad; in fact, it is one of the strengths in a good education. However, in many ways, education is also “handed” to us.
I only began to realize this when I went abroad to New Zealand for a semester. In New Zealand I had one class that had 750 students. The teacher lectured briefly, highlighting main ideas, and all of the other work was done independently by the individual. Our papers were graded by TA’s and if we needed help, we could go see the TA, but there were only 2 for the 750 of us, and their office hours were relatively inconvenient. Our final exam in the class was 50% of our final grade, and the other 50% of our grade came from two papers and an online midterm. There were no homework assignments or quizzes or any form of work where the professor “checked” in on us throughout the semester. No part of my grade was designated to participation (thought participation is hard in a lecture hall of 750 people because no one would be able to hear from across the room) and there were no opportunities to do re-writes or to go office hours to converse about a paper. I have given an example of one of my classes but my other classes (except for one) were also like this. They all had closer to only 50 people in the class but the grade distribution was exactly the same. While I enjoyed experiencing this type of education, I know that I would not have excelled as much had this been the only form of education I was exposed to my entire life. I very much thrived on the American system, where things were taught in a chronological order and there were weekly assignments allowing me to check in with the teacher reaffirming the knowledge I had learned.
On a slightly different note, I also realized from personal experience that while I did relatively well in high school I do not remember much of the things I learned. I would not be able to take an honors chemistry exam from 10th grade and do as well as I did back then, similar to an algebra 2 exam, or one about world history. I have learned an immense amount in college, but I have also lost a lot of high school. I wonder if this is because of our education system. Would we have information more memorized if every aspect of our lives were graded? Or would we retain more information if much of the information was gained through self-guided teaching and exploration?
I am really interested in seeing what the Ghanaian education system is like in practice. From learning about the history of their education I am able to see both strengths and flaws but I am unable to tell how it compares to the US education system. It seems that the US system is very based on standardized testing while the Ghanaian system is focused on grades. However, grades can be distributed more on a wide scale rather than standardized tests, which usually do not test ones knowledge but their ability to take tests.